“In order to preserve an elevated state of mind, be happy for those who are happy, cultivate compassion for those who are sad, feel delight for those deemed to be lucky, and experience indifference toward those perceived to be wicked.” ~~Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33
(I got this image from here)
If you’ve ever been to one of my Vinyasa, Hatha or Power yoga classes, then you are familiar with Warrior poses. In most every class, we at least practice Warrior 1 and Warrior 2. We don’t always get to Warrior 3, but I love when we do, because it’s such a great strength and balance pose, in my opinion.
You know, every pose we do in yoga has a purpose, and the Warrior poses are no exception. I love reading about the history behind each pose, because there is usually some life lesson I know I’m meant to absorb. Recently, I purchased a book called “Myths of the Asanas: The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition”, by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij. In this book is the story of the Warrior poses, which I chose to read about this weekend, and damn if it didn’t hit right where I needed to be hit this week!
If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a great link to a really good version. But to sum it up, Lord Shiva created Virabhadra (the great warrior) out of one of his own dreadlocks in a fit of rage over the death of his wife, Sati. Shiva ordered Virabhardra to kill Sati’s father, Daksha, as he assumed that it was Daksha who had killed Sati. However, this was not the case, and when Shiva realized this, he set things right by bringing Daksha back to life.
The point of the story is to teach us that life isn’t always what we want it to be. Sometimes, it gets hard and we need to make some very tough decisions. And when this happens, we need to resist impulsive behavior, and work toward creating and maintaining an elevated stated of mind…the yoga state of mind, as Patanjali states in Yoga Sutra 1.33.
We can begin practicing this concept on our mats, when we encounter poses that really challenge us. What do you do when you come across a pose that challenges you mentally and physically? Do you impulsively push yourself through it, only to find that you’ve ended up more stressed or injuring yourself? If you do, try to find your inner warrior to provide you with the strength to instead approach the pose with integrity, compassion and a loving state of mind. Try not to be so reactive with your mind. When things get hard, this is when we may find that our yoga practice, both on and off the mat, truly begins.
It’s not easy, as I know all too well. I am notorious for reacting to everything without stopping and thinking through what the best course of action should be, as my husband and daughters can confirm. More often than not, when I don’t take the time to think things through, I end up regretting it. On the mat, I usually end up realizing that I’ve pushed myself too far in a certain pose, and I end up in pain. Off the mat…well, it runs the gamut!
So this week in class, we’ll be working through a challenging standing sequence that will incorporate all three Warrior poses. This sequence will challenge our balance, our strength, and our flexibility. Your task is to take the time during this sequence to choose the variations for yourself that will allow you to stay calm, relaxed and joyful. I know you can do it. All you have to do is let go of your ego and go with the flow.